Global Food Myths #13: Does cooking octopus with a cork make it tender?

Tim Hilchenbach, Global Food Myths #13, Octopus, Cork

LSG Group experts clarify food myths from around the world – Episode 13 is about preparing octopus.

If it is so tender that you can almost crush it with a fork, octopus is a delicacy. However, if prepared incorrectly, the octopus can, quite literally, become tough business. To avoid this, adding a wine cork to the cooking water is said to do the trick. A brilliant tip or just hocus-pocus? Tim Hilchenbach, Executive Chef at LSG Sky Chefs, knows more.

“There is no scientific explanation that the trick works,” says Hilchenbach. “If you want tender octopus, you need to use the right cooking technique.”
The wine cork tip, which has been talked about even by starred chefs, is based on the fact that unlike cuttlefish or squids, octopi don’t have a skeleton. The belief is that the cork will release enzymes that settle between the octopus’ particularly long protein chains, thereby preventing clumping and guaranteeing tender meat.

But there is a catch: corks are treated and boiled before being used to seal a bottle due for hygienic purposes. The often quoted recommendation to use a white and not a red wine cork does not change this.

Tim Hilchenbach therefore advises: “An octopus should be cooked just below the boiling point of the stock in which it is placed. If the temperature is too high, the proteins clump together and the flesh becomes tough – regardless of whether the cork was placed in the water or not.”

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